Dallas Zoo — Giants of the Savanna
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Designed for Animals, Visitors and Staff
To create exciting African savanna experiences in Dallas, ZHCD
considered the behavior of animals in zoo exhibits, the needs of
visitors and staff, the specifics of landscaping in Dallas, and
the interpretive value of savanna ecology.
Elephants, giraffes and the other exhibit animals require lush grass
for grazing and a substrate that promotes foot health, yet their
presence is hard on grass and soil. Using 19,500 cu yds of soil mix
custom designed for Dallas, ZHCD was able to provide for healthy
pasture and healthy feet.
To tell the story of savanna ecology, ZHCD looked to Texas' own
native savannas. Over 60% of the 6,000 plants used for the project
are Texas natives, although used in surprising combinations. These
drought-tolerant species will need less irrigation than traditional
Providing shade for elephants and giraffes in the Texas sun requires
big trees. Thirty-five foot tall specimens were required. They were
located and craned into place before being pruned and wrapped with
"hot vines" to protect them from animal damage.
Landscape planning considers how animals will behave in exhibits and
the effects they will have on soil, slopes and plants. ZHCD benefits
from a career in zoo operations for first-hand knowledge of what works
best for animals, keepers and visitor experience.
Exhibits must look great on Opening Day and be sustainable over the long
run. To assure plentiful grass from the first and throughout the seasons,
a quarter ton of grass seed was used, comprised of nine species selected
for Dallas conditions (climate, irrigation pH, etc.) and animal use.
Daily browse or forage benefits animal health and reduces stress on the
exhibit landscape. Over 1,000 small trees were located on site for the
keepers to harvest leafy branches from April through November.
Customized Soil for Elephants
An African Savanna for Texas
Sizing It Right
Planning for Animals
Grass from Day One